Song Of The Day 6/12/2015: Johnny Nash – “Cream Puff”

Supreme, Incredible, God-Like Champions of Understatement: Johnny Nash was an American reggae singer from Houston. You didn’t see too many of those in his time. Actually he started out in the late ’50s as a pop singer, very much in the Johnny Mathis/Frankie Avalon mode. It was not a barnstorming early career, but it did afford him the chance to rewrite legislation with Paul Anka and George Hamilton IV on “The Teen Commandments.” (“Be an engine – not a caboose.”) Then Nash bounced around for a bit with little momentum or direction, but in the mid–60s he founded a record label called JODA, which made whatever dents it could via some deep soul singles, although they also signed the Cowsills.

Nash had filmed a movie with Dennis Hopper in Jamaica in 1961, and from then on he traveled to the island often. His JODA single “Let’s Move and Groove” became a hit in Jamaica, so in 1967 he went down there for a reggae session which produced “Hold Me Tight.” That song hit the top 5 in America in 1968, which I’m fairly certain makes it the first reggae tune in history to hit the upper reaches of the U.S. charts. Before I looked that up tonight I thought the honor went to Desmond Dekker’s “Israelites,” but that didn’t hit for at least another year-plus. Anyway, reggae was Nash’s calling, it turned out. In 1972 he did “I Can See Clearly Now,” which went to #1.

And that’s not even the most important thing Nash did for reggae music. You wanna know what that was? After it was pretty clear Nash, reggae and Jamaica were made for each other, he started recording at local studios and even managed to develop a favorite weed dealer. Attaboy Johnny -- sod Anka and his stupid commandments! Another one of this herbalist’s clients was Bob Marley. Nash and Marley hit it off, and with Nash needing new material for his reggae career, he signed Marley to his first contract as a songwriter for Nash’s JAD label. The rest, as they say, is being played full-volume from that dorm room down the hall. (And I'll bet it's Legend. Because all those dorm rooms just have freaking Legend. Would it kill you guys to play Catch a Fire or Exodus all the way through for once? Jah-sus.)

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